Miguel Piñero (December 19, 1946-June 18, 1988) born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, was a playwright, actor, and co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
Miguels parents imagrated to New York from Puerto Rico in the early 1950s when he was 4 years old. Miguel, like many Puerto Ricans of that era, had to come face to face with the harshships of discrimination. His father abandoned the family in 1954 and his mother was forced to move into a basement and to live off of welfare. He started his life of crime at an early age. When he was 11 years old he started stealing and was arrested. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx. Miguel joined a street gang called "The Dragons" when he was 13 and when he was 14 he was hustling in the streets. Before Miguel had reached his 20 birthday, he was a drug addict and a harden criminal.
In 1972, when Miguel was 25 years old, he was incarcerated in Sing Sing prison for second degree armed robbery. While serving time in prison, he wrote the play "Short Eyes" as part of the imates playwriters workshop. The play is a drama which portrays life, love and death among prison imates. In 1974, the play was presented at Riverside Church, in Manhattan. Theater impresario Joseph Papp saw the play and was so impressed that he moved the production to Broadway. The play was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won the New York Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the "best play of the year". The play was also a "hit" in Europe. It catapulted Miguel to literary fame. "Short Eyes" was finally published by the editorial house Hill & Yang.
Once out of prison, Miguel continued to write and he also landed some small parts in some films. In the 1970s, Miguel co-founded the Nuyorican (New York-Puerto Rican) Poets Cafe with a group of artists, among them was Miguel Algarin who would become one of his best friends. The "cafe" is a place where performers can go and cite their poetry about the experiences of being a Puerto Rican in New York.
In 1977, Miguel's play "Short Eyes" was turned into a drama film directed by Robert M. Young]. In the film Miguel played the part of "Go-Go" a prisoner.
Miguel however, continued to live a double life. On one hand he was a talented writer who descrbed the evils of society and on the other hand he continued to be a drug addict and a bisexual. He had an affair with playwright Reinaldo Rovod.
Miguel landed bite parts in the following productions: "D.C. Cops" (T.V.) (1985), "Alphabet City" (1984), "Miami Vice" (T.V.) (1984), "Deal of the Century" (1983), "Breathers" (1983), "Exposed" (1983), "See China and Die" (T.V.) (1981]]), "Fort Apache the Bronx" (1981), "Times Square" (1980), "Streets of L.A." (1979), "The Jericho Mile" (1979), "Looking Up" (1977), and "Short Eyes" (1977).
Miguel wrote the "Miami Vice" T.V. episode "Smuggler's Blue" in 1984 and the screenplay for "Short Eyes" (the movie). He edited "Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings", with Miguel Algarin. Miguel also wrote the following plays: "Eulogy for a Small Time Thief"; "Midnight Moon at the Greasy Spoon"; "Straight from the Ghetto" and "The Sun Always Shines for the Cool".
Miguel Piñero died on June 16, 1988 in New York City from Liver Disease (Cirrhosis)and his ashes were scattered across the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The life of Miguel Piñero has been portrayed in the Hollywood production "Piñero", directed by Leon Ichaso ("El Super", "Crossover Dreams") starring Benjamin Bratt as Miguel.